Roster Changes Aren't 'Done Deals'

Leading off this national notebook, a change to the injured reserve policy needs NFLPA approval — which is no sure thing considering the combative nature of the union.

It's been broadly reported that, at the NFL spring meeting on Tuesday, the league agreed to two roster-related proposals: one that would permit a team to bring back one player from injured reserve in the second half of the campaign, and a second that would move back the trade deadline by two weeks, from the Tuesday following the sixth week of play until after Week 8.

Truth is, while there seems to be accord among owners for the two initiatives, they aren't "done deals" just yet.

The NFL's competition committee has essentially handed off the two measures to the Management Council Executive Committee to bargain with the NFLPA over.

And given the current stance of the union and executive director DeMaurice Smith, which makes nothing automatic, the moves aren't exactly a slam-dunk.

Lamented on owner: "Nothing comes easy with those (NFLPA) guys. Even changes that make sense, like these two, they're ready to go to war over them. We'd hope they would go through, but you never know."

As the proposal is written, a team could only return a player injured "after reporting to training camp." If that's the language that's approved by the league and the union, that would mean the Ravens couldn't bring back Terrell Suggs. The league's reigning defensive player of the year, Suggs sustained his Achilles injury during an offseason workout and he would not be eligible for inclusion in the potential rules change.

Notable on Tuesday was that the competition committee and the owners pretty much passed on a proposal that would have permitted a team a roster exemption for a player with a concussion.

The move was somewhat surprising, given all the focus on head injuries lately. By the way, despite the tacit agreement on extending the trade deadline, there were some objections to it from a few owners.

School's in session

Owners continue to be publicly protective of the league's relationship with the colleges.

But with so many high-profile draft choices unable to participate in OTAs because of the rule that prohibits them from reporting until the terms have ended at their universities, a few owners privately indicated some frustration with the moratorium at this week's league meetings.

"Most of these guys aren't even in school anymore, and maybe haven't been for a while," one AFC owner noted to The Sports Xchange. "It's just ridiculous."

There's been no move to address the rule, but it's very much on the minds of some owners and coaches.

One who declined to get into much detail about the situation was Colts owner Jim Irsay, whose team has been without top pick Andrew Luck or second-round tight end Coby Fleener because of the rule.

"We knew the situation when we picked those guys," Irsay said. "It's not like we weren't aware they wouldn't be around for a while."

The Packers do not have any players impacted by the rule this year.

Scoop from Chicago

One of the early positive elements of the Chicago Bears' workouts, perhaps even an epiphany of sorts to some coaches, has been the performance of tailback Michael Bush as a receiver.

The four-year veteran, signed from Oakland as an unrestricted free agent and presumptive backup to franchise tailback Matt Forte, has caught the ball well.

There were some concerns as the Bears install the offense that is designed by new coordinator Mike Tice that the team might miss the receiving skills of Forte, who remains unsigned and is sitting out the OTA sessions. But Bush has been a bit of a revelation so far.

He's not Forte, admittedly, but not bad, either. In his four seasons with the Raiders, Bush wasn't often utilized as a receiver out of the backfield, and he registered just 91 catches for his career. Part of that, of course, was that Bush was not a full-time starter.

Still, after averaging only 18.0 receptions his first three years, Bush had a career-best 37 catches in 2011, when he started a career-high nine contests. One of the NFL's premier all-around backs, Forte has averaged 55.8 catches in his four league seasons and recorded 50-plus receptions every year.

But there has been no substantive progress in contract discussions with Forte, the Bears aren't sure when he'll report, and, even with the upgraded talent at wide receiver, Chicago needs a backfield receiving threat. Sure, it's only OTAs, but Bush has provided some indication he can somewhat fill the bill.

Bush was added as a complement to Forte, and once the starter resolves his contract situation, he'll go back to providing a solid power runner who loves to bang people. Until then, though, his role is expanded, and he's proving capable.

Meanwhile, while he has struggled at times in his efforts to become a play-making wide receiver, rather than arguably the top return specialist in NFL history, but Devin Hester reportedly has looked terrific so far in Bears' workouts. With the additions of Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery, Hester could be a big force in the slot, Chicago coaches feel.

The last word

"In the game of football, it's like a war out there. Once you get out on the field, all that stuff is to the side. You're on my side. I played in the NFL for 11 years, and I'm sure there were one or two guys along the line who were gay." — former NFL defensive end Jevon Kearse, via, on the improving acceptance of gay players in the league.

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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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